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Eating for Immunity

Mother and baby with umbrella in rain

The seasons changing brings with them new challenges to our immune systems. Little ones’ immune systems are learning and adapting all the time. Whilst sometimes that does mean catching a cough or cold, there are also some nutrients and nutrition tips you can use to help the immune system work at its best.

 

Top 5 nutrients to focus on:

Vitamin A: a powerful antioxidant that can help fight illness and infections, it protects membranes in the nose, mouth and gut. Found in cheese, oily fish, eggs, and liver, as well as in beta-carotene found in yellow, orange, red and green fruit and veggies: spinach, sweet potato, mango, peppers.

Vitamin C: whilst large doses will not protect your family from a cold it may help shorten a cold. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant well known for its benefits to the immune system, keeping cells healthy. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruit, peppers, currants, and potatoes to see these benefits. 

Vitamin E: helps the body make immune cells and maintains healthy skin and eyes. It can be found in nut butters, ground nuts and seeds, vegetable oil and avocado, and including these in your little ones diet will help with maintaining a healthy immune system.

Omega 3 fatty acids: can help the body reduce inflammation which helps when suffering from illness. Having 2 portions of oily fish will help your little one get all the omega 3 fats they need. It can also be found in walnuts, linseeds and chia seeds.

Vitamin D: is a key nutrient in immunity that our bodies make from the sunshine. From October-March there is not enough sunlight in the UK so everyone needs to be taking a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms a day, including babies.

 

Key vitamin infographic

 

Priya’s top tips for ‘eating for immunity’:

  • Focus on offering a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables across the week with a couple of portions at each meal- variety really is the key here. Remember, it’s totally fine to use fresh, frozen and tinned options (check the tinned versions are in water or natural juice).
  • Plan at least 1 portion of oily fish into your family’s diet each week- 2 portions where possible. Fishcakes, tinned sardines, mackerel fillets whizzed into a dip, fish pie or a curry are all great options. You can also add linseeds or chia seeds to breakfast cereal or use in baking.
  • Give your whole family a vitamin D supplement daily. There are liquid and spray versions that make it easy to take.
  • Include a variety of starchy foods in your diet across the week including potatoes, sweet potatoes and wholegrains. Oats, rice, pasta, bulgar wheat couscous, pitta bread, and tortilla wraps all count.
  • Nut butters, seeds, avocado and cheese plus a fruit or vegetable portion can make a nutritious, filling snack. Nut butter and banana on toast, chopped fruit rolled in ground seeds, avocado with the skin on for grip or cheese and grapes are all tasty options.

Family sharing a meal

 

-Written by For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew.

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